Estates of the nation: Let's hear it for the man in the street


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The Independent Online

Joseph Bullman is on a mission. The man behind the multi-award-winning 2012 BBC series The Secret History of Our Streets claims to know what is wrong with factual programmes on television these days. "Documentaries have been taken over by celebrities," he says. "Some development executive somewhere will come up with an idea and think, 'I know, let's get one of the Top Gear team to present it.'"

"What we did was to let ordinary people speak for themselves. For years, working-class people were only ever on television if they were chavs or reality-show grotesques. But we got ordinary people back on the TV without anyone being told what to think by a celebrity presenter."

The second series moves from London to Scotland. And the first episode, about Edinburgh's New Town (BBC2, Friday 25 July), could not be further from the stories Bullman and his team uncovered in Deptford, Bermondsey, and the East End. "We spent a very moving day with a doctor called Bill Ayles. He greeted us in his tweed suit and had this stunning house where he was surrounded by tigers' heads from India and paintings of his ancestors. He told me his family had come from east London but had then moved to their country estate. I told him that was the same as my family. Only our estates were council estates."

One bad Apple

Amusing scenes in Apple's "flagship" Regent Street store last week. As people were told there would be at least a 20-minute delay for all appointments at the "Genius Bar" (ask your kids), tempers were fraying already when who should walk in but film-turned-stage actress Kathleen Turner.

"I hope you're not going to forget about me," Turner growled to what my source describes as a "hipster drone". And, of course, no one did as Turner was seen to and off into the sunshine before you could say "pixel density". Genius.

Larder louts

Out There loves nothing more than a bonkers food-related story, but last week there were just too many to choose from.

You might have heard about the guy from Ohio who launched a Kickstarter page to make a potato salad (pledges stand at $46,271 at time of writing). It's possible you caught wind of the two reporters from Brighton's Argus newspaper who ended up in hospital after attempting to eat a XXX Hot Chilli Burger. And you may even be aware of the woman from Washington State who is planning to eat only dog food for 30 days. But none of these concern us here, because out of the madness comes an idea with the potential for greatness.

Alan and Gary Keery are identical twins from Belfast who want nothing more than to share their obsession with the people of east London. To do so, the Keerys have created a crowdfunding page on the Indiegogo website to raise the £60,000 they need to bring their dream to life.

The plan? To open the Cereal Killer Café, which will "re-imagine how we enjoy our cereal". To do this the café "will stock 100 cereals, 12 milks and 20 toppings. Letting you, the customer, tailor a bowl to your exact taste." Now that's not just a good concept. It's gr-r-reat.

Artificial intelligence

After a group of lawyers in the US requested it under the Freedom of Information Act, last week the CIA was forced to post its Style Manual and Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications online. "Good intelligence," the foreword begins, "depends in large measure on clear, concise writing. The world is not static. Nor is the language we employ to assess it."

Ignoring that shameful lack of an apostrophe in the guide's title, what gems can be found within its 190 pages? Don't capitalise religious terms when used in a non-religious sense: "This style guide attempts to be catholic," it adds helpfully. Exclamation marks are out ("be dispassionate"). And "if there is a good English equivalent of a word, use it: pilgrimage, not hajj", for example.

Interestingly, although the guide is updated constantly and the cover states clearly that this is the 2011 edition, in the "Titles of Persons" section, the name given at the top of the list is "David Wright Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs", a position Miliband, of course, lost at the 2010 General Election. Like they say, the world's not static.

Call my bluff

Turns out that the widely shared "Singer performs one song in 29 celebrity voices" video was a hoax. We should have known. The impersonator who did Britney Spears – one Melissa Villasenor – was completely in tune.

No rhyme or reason

Another in a regular series of limericks based on recent events:

In the run-up to saying 'I do'

He encountered a story untrue

But because he's George Clooney

And not, say, Wayne Rooney

He decided to shame not to sue.